Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Feast of St Joseph the Worker and Happy May Day

St Joseph Altar Cake March 2018

Happy Feast of St Joseph the Worker!!! It's been 3 years since I became an instant single mom again and 16 years ago next week that I became one for the first time.
Last fall a woman in town said, "I don't know how you do it all" to which I truthfully replied, "I don't. Some things stay on my to do list for months at a time until they fall off only to reappear-and then maybe they will get done." One of the many reasons I was starting to get down emotionally this past weekend. But sometimes we have to pause to see how far we have come when it seems like we haven't.....and cheer ourselves for the small things: the kids were fed and are sleeping, maybe we missed paying 2 bills this month, but we paid for propane tank to be filled one more time in this coldest month of April in the 14 years we have lived in Ohio.....
And my advice for when life gets too overwhelming: is take life 15 minutes at a time. When that to do list and situation gets too overwhelming, when you are grieving so hard that it hurts to breathe: pick the task that has to be done at that moment and focus on just doing it for the next 15 minutes, then what do I do for the next 15 minutes and you can survive the day 15 minutes at a time. Sometimes only 5 minutes will go by and you have to refocus, but sometimes you will realize that 2 hours have gone by or 6 or 8.... But at the end of the day you survived that day or overwhelming night of a sick baby or the work project that you hated every moment of, by taking it one small 15 minutes or small task at a time.
And if you feel stuck in life....the same place you were last year or the year before I have started to contemplate the hidden life of the Holy Family in both Egypt and Nazareth: how they were probably scared and looked down upon in Egypt as poor Jewish refugees, and again for living in Nazareth....much how people look down on those of us who live in Steubenville and Jefferson County or where ever you are stuck living...focus on the hidden life of your family...did you love them today?...in whatever way that means. Did you thank your spouse for mowing the lawn or dealing with the cable company, did you tell them you love them and forgive them for whatever small thing they did wrong? Did you show up to your kids softball game (even if it was an hour late because you had to work) and manage to bite your tongue when they screwed up and just gave them a hug at the end of the game and said, "I love watching you play." Even though everyone was exhausted, did you push through and get 2/3 of the kids bathed with a wet wipe bath for the third child not quite so dirty before managing to get everyone in bed so you can repeat tomorrow.....it is those small victories to cling to on this journey of life.

St Joseph Altar Cake #2: Taken to Church

Thank you St Joseph for protecting my family through one more year of the impossible. Thank you to all my friends and family for your love and support and prayers. May God bless you now and always!!!

Our "Easter Landing" back in March with beautiful flowers given to me by a business mentor.
There is a Holy Family Statue with St. Joseph guarding Mary and baby Jesus holding an lantern.

From the sweetness of my home to yours,

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Home School Books for Sale-First List

I am attempting to start to sell off my many home school books.

I have more to add to this list, but this is what I managed to get typed up last weekend before having to start back to work this week.

I am not attaching any pictures because there are just so many books.  I have this list typed to also cross post on Cathswap and a few other groups.

I will accept payment via Paypal.  If you are local we can make pick up arrangements, but books must be paid for within 3 days or I will relist the items to sell/offer them to anyone on the wait list.

I will update the book list with the other books I plan to sell this summer as the month rolls on.

All books come from a pet free home (since all our animals were outside animals) and a smoke free home.  I have done my best to honestly list the condition of these books.  Many are in brand new condition just due to the nature of how our home schooling life ended.  Message me at starkwx3atyahoo.com if interested in purchasing.

Books for Sale July 2017:


Spanish With Grace 3-CD Set Plus 7 Spanish Readers New Condition $60 ppd For Set
(Readers are: Usborne First Thousand Words in Spanish, Mi Primer Catecismo, Las Paraboas de Jesus, Moises: Un Bebe entre los juncos, La Biblia Ilustrada, and 2 copies new condition of Pope Pius XII Bilingual Coloring Book. Plus a few prayer sheets.)


Scott Foresman Kindergarten, 1998 Edition Set $10.00 plus actual shipping (heavy books):
3 student workbooks 95% unused, plus 2 both hardcover teacher volumes, soft cover Songs & Rhymes book as well. Extra volume 2 of the teacher's manual if you want it.

Math-It by Elmer W. Brooks (used in MODG): Game boards and Audio Tape in Hardcover Case, $20 ppd, used condition

Teaching Textbooks Math 6, Cd-Rom Set, plus Student Book with no writing on 95% of pages, Teacher Answer Key, $100ppd

Teaching Textbooks Math 7, CD-Rom set with an extra disk 1, $80ppd, Retails $129.95

Life of Fred Pre-Algebra Set (6th/7th/8th grade), 5 Book Set New Condition, Retails $116.96 on Sale on their website, $100 ppd (obo); Books include: Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Elementary Physics, Pre-algebra 1 with Biology, Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics)

Health and Science:

Abeka: Let's Be Healthy 3 Book Set $15.00 ppd: Student Book, Workbook and Answer Key

Abeka Biology Student Textbook (3rd Edition): $8.00 ppd

Abeka Developing Good Health $2.00 plus postage


Ready to Use Music Activities Kit $10.00ppd

Enjoy Your Recorder (The Trapp Family Singers') $5.00 ppd


Maps Charts Graphs H (US Past and Present)-used in MODG $10 ppd

Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide (used in MODG) $10 ppd (This is 2003 edition); Good Used Condition with no writing (make copies to use for Geography studies. This does NOT have a CD-Rom like the new 2016 edition. It came used to me with one page of flashcards missing, but that page is NOT used in MODG.)

Theory/Curriculum/Syllabi Sets:

A Field Guide for Boys Curriculum Guide $13.00 ppd (New Condition)

Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood by Paula Polk Lillard, $3 plus postage


Intro Medieval Logic by Alexander Broadie, Second Edition Hard Cover, Used Good Condition with Writing $18 ppd

Memoria Press, Traditional Logic I Set: Student Textbook and Answer Key, Minimal Pencil Writing, Cover Worn, $15.00 set ppd

Memoria Press, Traditional Logic II Set: Student Textbook and Answer Key, Very Good Condition, Some Corner Wear, $15.00 ppd
Also, we own a Second Traditional Logic II Student Textbook $10.00 ppd; $20.00 ppd if you want to buy all 3 books.

Memoria Press, The Book of Roots Answer Key $2 plus postage (unless ordered with another book)

Memoria Press Rhetoric 3 book set: Student Text, Answer Key plus Figures of Speech supplement book (New Condition): $45 ppd

Memoria Press, Material Logic Student Text and Answer Key, (Cover Worn and tearing off, pencil writing on less than 5 pages with some yellowing/staining, $15.00 ppd


Memoria Press, Latina Christianna Teacher Manual, Used with Some Writing, $5.00 plus postage
Memoria Press, First Form Latin Student Text , New Condition, $10 plus postage

Memoria Press, First Form Wall Charts, New Still in Plastic, Retails for $20, want $15 ppd

Memoria Press, Second Form Latin Pronounciation Cd's New, never used: $8.00 plus postage

Memoria Press, Second Form Latin Flashcards New Still in Plastic $10 plus postage

Memoria Press, Latin Grammar for the Grammar Stage New Condition $10.00 plus postage


Seton Handwriting 3, Cover Worn and Torn, but New unused pages inside $5 plus postage

Memoria Press 4 Book Handwriting set, retails $50.00, New Condition $40.00 ppd (Set includes: Copybooks I, II, III and Cursive)

Test Prep:

Spectrum Test Prep Grade 6, practice test sheets included but torn out to make copies, 2002 edition,
$4.00 plus postage

Spectrum Test Prep Grade 6, New Condition, 2007 version, $5.00 plus postage


IEW: Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Workbook Binder and CD-set, New Condition, 2010 version, $100 ppd

IEW: Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Workbook Binder, New Condtion, 2000 edition, $25ppd OBO

CHC, Language of God Level G (Advanced 7th grade/Average 8th Grade), New Condition, $20ppd, (Retails $25.95)

CHC, Creative Communications Writing Syllabi by Sandra Garant, New Condition, $10ppd

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easty Lessons $10ppd, Used Condition with Writing on some pages (teacher's notes)

Easy Grammar Plus Teacher Book, (Pages are blank so can be used by student if you want), New Condition, $20 plus postage heavy book

Starting a Spelling Notebook 2003 version to be used with 5th Revised Edition of The Writing Road to Reading, used with MODG, $5 for 2 book set plus postage, used worn condition with writing.


Usborne True Stories Crime and Detection by Gill Harvey, good condition, paperback $2 plus postage

Seton: A Book of Friendliness, New condition inside, Cover starting to be worn, $6ppd

Seton: These Are Our Horizons, New condition inside, Cover starting to be worn $5ppd

Francis and Clare: Saints of Assisi by Helen Walker Homan, $5ppd, New condition

Free: Uncle Wiggily and Kitty Kat storybook (will be added to a purchase)

Christ With Us Now and Always: A History of the Church, Teacher's notes in Pencil, $5ppd (Image of God Series, Grade 8)

Praying that these books will bless your home in the next school year!!!

God's blessings,


Sunday, May 7, 2017

May Sucks

Katie's tribute to Holly for her funeral.

Our dog Holly died.....she lived a long life.  We had her for eleven years and adopted her from a West Virginia animal shelter when she was approximately three years old....but anyways, everyone here has shed some tears this weekend.  Plus, there is a reason why "burying the dead" is a Corporal work of Mercy.....a 80-100 pound golden lab required a very large hole to be dug for a proper burial.

And I just realized that I somehow never managed to take any pictures of her in the past two years that weren't blurry due to her moving closer to me as I was snapping the picture.  Since I have never made "albums" on Facebook, I am having problems finding any pictures there as well.

(Remember I lost all of my pictures from 2013-2015 when all electronic devises were turned over for the investigation.)

So, the first two weeks of May now officially suck emotionally.  It will be fifteen years ago tomorrow that my Christopher died and I still miss him so much.  Some years are easier than others.  This year's anniversary is rough....fifteen years is such a big number.  I often question myself, wondering what he would advise regarding raising the kids, or the business, or other life events.....but every memory of Chris is surrounded by running, family, work and church.....so, outside of running, I just push myself to do "the family, work and church" thing.....and turn some music on and have a dance party at home since singing and dancing is my thing....and try to squeeze in a half hour here or a half hour there for reading time.....I really just try to pay what bills I can pay and keep going.  Some days it is easier to be positive than others.  Today is a rougher one since I am fighting a cold.  Even though I know I will probably be back to my normal positive self after we get through Mother's Day, it still doesn't make these first two weeks any easier.  (The Mother's Day negativity comes from the fact that Chris' plane crashed just prior to Mother's Day weekend in 2002.  I always connect Mother's Day with the plane collision.)

I wonder what Chris' thoughts would be regarding the man who almost broke the 2 hour marathon time this past weekend.  I pray for Chris' intercession with our two teenage children who are struggling to find their way in this crazy mixed up world.....yet, who today got out of bed and took their younger siblings to church while I tried to sleep off my third day with a cold and fever.  For these teenagers who helped to dig a dog hole for their dog without complaint and while trying not to cry until they could hide in their room with a new shelter dog that we crazily adopted six weeks ago after rescuing it from a busy street/McDonalds parking lot at 10:30pm.

Lucky, our new dog that was adopted 6 weeks ago.

My son Joey taught his younger sisters how to play chess this past winter  (totally NOT my thing.)  My teenage son and daughter continually choose family over being gone from home all the time.  They went to see a movie together last night and I caught them jumping on the trampoline together as well.  Joey teaching the littles to play chess led to these moments where the three littles took turns playing chess while they took their Sunday baths today.  So, when I focus on these things then I hope and pray that overall I am doing a good job.  I have one child really struggling to find their way....but pray that these are all signs that things are slowly going well.

Katie and Libby playing chess

Then Anna and Libby playing chess as well.

Please pray for the refinancing of the store.  I am suppose to officially sign a renewal contract with UPS Store corporate later this year which includes remodeling and equipment upgrades.  I will admit that signing another ten year contract after the past two years has created anxiety....along with the anxiety about being able to obtain financing......but then again, the thought of walking away from it all creates even more anxiety....what complex creatures we humans are.

Since it is still officially the Easter season in the Catholic Church I wish you all a Happy Belated Easter from our house to yours,

Easter 2017: Back Row: Jessie, Stephanie (Me), and Joey
Front Row: Katie, Libby holding the bunny, and Anna

Happy early Memorial day from our family to yours.  We have extra special plans this year that we are very excited about.  Thank you to all our Veterans and those who continue to serve to protect us from harm!!  May God bless you and protect you now and always!

Wishing you all lots of spring flowers and cherished memories,


P.S. This picture was taken of Chris and I back in 1999 when we moved into our first apartment in San Diego.....How young we once were......Chris, my love, please pray for us.

Chris and I, March 1999, San Diego, CA, our first apartment.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A New Way to Support Us Plus: My Year of Silence

I have started several blog posts since May, but none of them seemed right to post.

Katie, Anna and Libby at Christmas

Jessie and Joey this past Christmas

Some great news for the new year:  We have a new website for our store where you can order any promotional products you may need for work, non-profit organizations, etc., and it will be delivered straight to your door!  This is great way that you can help support our family right from your own laptop!  There are thousands of products available: magnets, notepads, shirts, water bottles, etc....Almost anything you would want to put a logo on is there!


My silence was not intentional, but just happened by default since I was trying NOT to broadcast all the traveling that I completed this past summer.  (Trying to protect my store and house and family from anyone that may decide to try to steal from us.)  I was gone for six weeks between May and September, completing UPS Store corporate required training as well as making sure that the kids saw our family in Wisconsin.  My last trip ended up being a personal one where I went away for five days without my children and visited a friend.  I actually had one day during that trip where I just stayed in bed: no television, no writing, no reading, with very limited cell phone interaction between the store and my kids.  Just rest-which never happens unless I get so sick that I can't get out of bed.  I finished the day by attending Mass at one of my favorite churches and getting my rosary prayed plus confession.  The "rest day" happened because my friend looked at me at breakfast and said, "You are asleep with your eyes open.  We are NOT going to the beach.  You are going back to bed."  That trip must have been what my soul needed since so many people have told me over the last few months that I look happier and at peace.  I think I really did need to "get out of Dodge" and it NOT be work or driving twelve hours one way to see my family that I desperately love....but to just try to be with a friend and not worry about everything that I worry about.  I sat on the beach and watched the waves roll in and went to church twice plus I met a bunch of "new friends" who were friends of my friend for dinner three times.

Unfortunately I was not able to go away for Christmas to really visit my family due to an unexpected work crisis.  We were able to work out meeting half way for the kids to still get to go visit some of our family, but I spent forty hours of driving in six days to make that happen.  I'm not complaining....I am the one still living in Steubenville instead of closer to our extended family....and family is one of the most important part of our lives so I drive to keep those family bonds strong.  It's just our reality for now....and I pray my kids remember these trips if they grow up and move far away-that they make it a priority to make those family visits happen.....that maybe someday they will realize, "Wow.  I can't believe my mom drank 5 hour energy drinks and drove 12 hours through the night to get us to Wisconsin (or 18 hours to get to Iowa or Kansas City)......Thank you Mom.  I'm driving to come see you."  (See, one can dream.)

But my writing silence is also because I am trying very hard to complete my annulment paperwork......and IT. IS. HARD.  I remember in my past when I found out that other Catholics had left the Church and gotten remarried in Protestant churches that I would think, "How hard can it really be?  Just do the paperwork already and get married 'right'!"......Yeah.....mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  I understand and I will NEVER ever judge someone again if they walk away from the church over this process.....Because this annulment process SUCKS!!!  It is painful and hard and 85 FREAKING short answer questions that have to be answered plus a final essay/argument for why your marriage should be annulled.  I have had my final essay written for five months now, but the 85 FREAKING QUESTIONS are standing in my way.  If I try to complete the paperwork after the kids get to sleep then I can't fall asleep at night and I am not my best at work the next day.  My weekends are the only time I can just focus on my kids so I don't want to hire a sitter or lock myself in my bedroom to answer questions during that time.  So that leaves me either getting up early (which still sucks for not being tired at work) OR actually paying extra payroll to leave work during the day....and that hasn't happened.  On days I plan to leave God seems to send extra business our way, or some other work mini-crisis happens and I don't get any "personal stuff" complete that day.  Most of the time I read a question and just want to type, "See the final essay" OR "See the 1600 pages of evidence that the prosecutor has."  Anything, but ripping off the "bandaid healing" that has already taken place on my heart and soul.  I know that many people seem to find the annulment process healing, but I am one of those people who find it incredibly painful and hard.....and while it is something that I need to do morally for myself long term wise, it is a new suffering that I wasn't expecting in my life.  I meant to have it completed by Labor Day, but obviously that has come and gone by another five months.  The final document-ON JUST MY PART-will be larger than the final divorce papers that included our personal life, our store, rental duplex, farm, etc.  That doesn't include Jason's response that we will have to wait for OR the research completed by the Church tribunal.  And the fact that I have to wait for Jason to respond to the same 85 questions while living the schedule he has in the state prison does not give me much hope for a speedy annulment.

I also completed a state tax audit, which I knew would be coming.  I am just thankful that it didn't get started in 2015 while I was trying desperately to get through the legal process of Jason's trial and obtaining a loan to help save the store.  I once read a quote from a saint whose name I don't remember right now that said, "If you have too much to do with God's help you will get it done."  I have been trying to cling to that mantra.

It's hard to answer when people ask me how things are going.  My response from May when I told people, "It is still going to be very 'tight' financially for another year or two" seems to be ringing true.  The store is "out of surgery, but in intensive care" right now.  We are still susceptible to bad shipping weeks (or months in this case due to the past election.)  We are praying that each week we get the money to pay the basic bills (UPS shipping bill, payroll, rent, utilities, etc).  It will still be several months to finish paying off past due vendor debt that I got stuck with.  Then hopefully we can start applying half of those debt payments to the back taxes and I can begin taking a paycheck to start getting caught up on personal bills so that we can refinance by next fall which will help cut our debt payments in half again.  I also need to start paying back the several people who gave us emergency loans over the past two years.

The start of each school year creates different crisis whenever you have kids.  Then all the stress has added health issues to several of us in the family so we just keep plugging away at focusing on whichever emotional or physical crisis is at hand.  A few family members have also understandably been fighting depression as well.  My prayer in the end is that my children end up healthy, happy and still living their Catholic faith.

At the time of Jason's arrest I was enrolled in the second semester of a national online class focusing on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her writings.  In one of the class discussion boards, people were going on and on wanting to know, "What was Laura 'doing' during her silent years before she published the Little House on the Prairie series?"  The answer is simple:  she was living her life with all the daily duties she had to perform:  she raised a daughter and helped Almanzo run their farm with several hired hands.  She cooked from scratch three meals a day for their family and farm workers on a wood cook stove...no microwave, no running into town to eat at a restaurant....she lived with lanterns and candles for light....she belonged to several organizations in town and did do some writing for farming publications since she was known within her state as an expert in raising laying hens.  She wrote in her journal almost daily and wrote letters to all her loved ones before telephones were invented-and still wrote letters even after the telephone was invented.....Anyways, she was busy living her life and began fiction writing as her "life slowed down" due to Rose growing up and her then old age.

 I say all this so that if I am "silent" on the blog for the next year or so....not posting very much....you know why....I am "living my life."  I just worked six days a week for over two months to get us through the blessed holiday shipping season.  Even during non-peak season I average working approximately 50 hours a week.  I worked approximately 70 hours a week for the past two months.  Then I head off to whichever kid activit(ies) are on the schedule for the night.  Head home, maybe get some chores done and usually get up between 4am-5:30am to repeat that schedule every single day.   There is no "off" when you are a single mother and definitely no "off" when you own your own business.  Everything depends on God's blessings and grace to provide for the family and then showing up for work each and every day.  The annulment process is also taking away from any other personal writing that I want to do.

Just know that all is well.  We did survive 2016, though at times it was really scary financially.
We are looking forward to hopefully a more peaceful 2017.  Praying for continued healing emotionally, physically and financially.  Praying for all of you and your prayer intentions as well.  If I am "silent" writing wise, please know that it is not intentional.  I am just taking care of "the business of life."  Focusing on the five miracles of my life, my children,....and extended family as well.

Thank you for your continued prayer support for my family and I!

Please bookmark this new website in case my store can help provide any promotional products you may need for your business or personal life!  Please also let your family and friends know that there is an easy way to help support a single mom of five kids:


May God bless you and keep you in the palm of His hand now and always!!!

Wishing you the sweetness of truly living your life from our family to yours,



Sunday, May 1, 2016

Thank You from Our Home to Yours

 A Belated Happy Easter from Our House to Yours

Rare picture of me with the children

Dear Editor,

Fourteen years ago this May my life was forever altered when my first husband was tragically killed in a military plane collision leaving me a widow at the age of twenty-five with two children under the age of two to raise. Two years later I moved to Steubenville, Ohio in order to pursue my masters degree at Franciscan University. While most people in my life thought I was crazy for moving to a town where I didn't know a soul instead of moving back home to be closer to family, I knew without a doubt that this was the journey God had in store for my children and myself. I was lucky enough to fall in love a second time and after remarrying we decided to put down roots and open a business nine years ago. The past nine years have been quite the family journey that included buying a small farm, homeschooling and having three more babies.

Unfortunately tragedy struck once again a year ago this May 1st. I once again unexpectedly became a single mom. At this time my family and I would like to take the time to publicly thank some of the people who have helped us through this past year. First I would like to thank Sheriff Abdalla, Captain Susan Bell and all of the sheriff deputies. I would like to thank all of the staff of the Jefferson County Jail. Thank you for helping to keep all of us safe. Thank you as well to the Steubenville Police Force. You have answered every call over this past year with professionalism and kindness. Thank you to Prosecutor Jane Hanlin, Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Bruzzesse, Detective John Lelless and the judges who serve Jefferson County for your hard work and dedication. I wish to also thank defense attorney Stephen Stickles and the other defense lawyers that serve our area so that our justice system can work the way our founding fathers intended it to work. During the past year I was also blessed to receive help from attorney Francesca Carinci and her secretary Amanda Varner. Thank you so much for helping me to navigate the legal system that I found myself suddenly involved in and for always answering my calls and concerns. To all the staff I have encountered in both the courthouse and the city municipal offices: thank you for always politely answering my answers and sending me to the correct office to get the help I needed. Lisa Scott, the Jefferson County Victim's Assistance Coordinator, has helped us to navigate the very confusing stream of paperwork that entered my life. Marisa Bortz, an advocate from the A.L.I.V.E. domestic violence shelter became a friend when I was in desperate need and didn't even know how to ask for the help that I needed. Thank you Marisa for listening to your gut and calling me personally on two different days when I was barely hanging on emotionally and really needed an advocate for our situation. Thank you to Eileen Spencer and everyone associated with A Caring Place and the vital services that they provide for families in crisis. I wish to thank the staff of Jefferson County Job and Family Services. You provide a public service that is desperately needed to help keep our children safe. Too often people criticize you instead of validating the tough jobs you have. I thank all of you for your help in our case as well. I especially thank the foster care families in Jefferson County, especially the family that helped protect my children while my innocence was proven. Thank you for loving them for those few days and for continuing to check on them and for becoming my friend. Thank you to our personal counselors, whose names I won't list for our own privacy. Thank you for helping us to get through this tragedy.

While I hesitate to start to list the following names, in fear that I may accidentally leave a name out, there are a few more people that we really need to thank. Without going into details, many people know that we almost lost our business during the course of the past year. During this past year a miracle was pulled off by the grace of God and the many prayers of my family, friends and customers. I know that many people thought I was crazy for fighting to keep my store open. Many people think I am crazy for still choosing to live in Steubenville and for not moving away from here. But you see, some things are worth fighting for. For my life both my children and the livelihood that the business can someday provide for them are ones that I consider a fight worth fighting. Fighting to stay in Steubenville is worth it as well. I firmly believe that if you pray as if everything depends on God and then work as if everything depends on you that things will work out. Now God doesn't necessarily provide for our needs in the way we wish and dream for, but He does provide.

The biggest hero of my story besides the resilient strength and love of my children is my now ex mother-in-law. She kept her word from nine years ago and chose to stay here and become, as she refers to herself, the “granny nanny.” If I work seventy hours during a week then she works seventy-five hours taking care of the children. Without her love and support I would have had to close our store as soon as our tragedy occurred. Thank you mom for loving me and your grandchildren to make all the sacrifices you are making! Without the financial support of both my parents, sister, other extended family members and friends across this great country the store would have had to close while I was fighting to get refinanced. It was very humbling since I had never asked for money since I was nineteen years old. Thank you for being faithful! Thank you to my past staff, especially Karen O'Day-Cooper, the former assistant manager. Thank you for stepping up and serving our customers especially on those days when you were suppose to be off of work. Thank you to my current staff that is continuing to give our customers the great service they have come to expect from our tiny store. Thank you to my customers past, present and future. I cannot tell you how much your words of kindness, prayers and financial support both through the store and with donations to our Go FundMe and to me personally have meant! Truly our doors would have closed last August and this past January through March if you hadn't provided for me and the children while I knocked on yet another bank door. I cannot even begin to try to list you all by name in fear of accidentally missing one name. Thank you to my extended UPS and The UPS Store colleagues: you truly mean it when you say “UPS is a family.”

Thank you to all the parishioners of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Weirton, WV. Your love and support has helped to keep us going. Thank you to the parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hopedale, Ohio and St. Terese Catholic Church in Cadiz, Ohio since they are my second “home” parish for those weekends when I can't make it to Weirton. Thank you to Michele Santin from the Office of Family and Social Concerns (Catholic Charities) for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville. During this past year instead of being able to buy for a child on the Christmas giving tree my children were the ones listed on a giving tree. Thank you to those anonymous souls that put smiles on my children's faces on Christmas morning by buying the presents I couldn't afford. Thank you as well to Catholic Charities for the help with a utility bill the one month that I was especially desperate for help. Thank you to the anonymous souls that have loaned me money without interest. Thank you as well to those who helped buy my kids back to school clothes and supplies, birthday and Easter presents. Thank you to those who provided us meals, Kroger gift cards and gas cards. All these little donations added up to help provide for our basic needs this past year. Thank you to those priests who gave us spiritual counseling over the past year. There were so many I am afraid to try to name you all, but I do have to thank two in particular: Father Francis of the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and Father Gregory Thompson of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church. Thank you for providing the corporal work of mercy by visiting my now ex-husband in prison. I saw you also provide friendship and comfort to the other families visiting prisoners. Thank you for providing that great need to those who desperately need God's mercy and kindness.

The tragedy that occurred in our life has meant that I had to go to work full time and thus stop homeschooling my children. I would be remiss if I didn't thank those people who have stepped up to help us. First, thank you to our amazing local Heart of Mary Catholic homeschool community! I truly miss seeing all of you at extra-curricular events. Last summer many of you stepped up to help with babysitting. It meant so much to know that my children were in loving homes those few times that neither I nor their grandmother could babysit. Thank you to the Encounter Youth Group. Last summer many of the youth and their parents spent a work day at our farm. Thank you from the bottom of my heart especially since we do not actively attend your activities. Thank you to the Mary Seat of Wisdom Classical Co-op. It was my privilege to have taught there a few short years and I truly miss all the parents and children. Thank you for providing this last year of transition for my youngest child. Thank you to our new schools: Steubenville High School, Bishop John King Mussio Central Elementary School and the Immaculate Heart Montessori School. Words cannot even begin to express how much the support, kindness and love has been from all the staff, teachers and families. It means so much to know that my children are attending schools where I know that people are looking out for their well being when I can't be there with them. It wasn't the easiest of years for us emotionally and I know that many of you have helped my children. To the many health professionals who provide for our health: thank you, thank you, thank you.

Finally I would like to thank all the wonderful people of our tri-state area. Too often we get down about our area. We list all the things that are wrong with it and not what is going right. Hopefully after twelve years I won't offend anyone as I now claim this as my adopted “home town.” Our area is still going through its painful economic transition, but it has one thing going right for it: it has the best people in the world fighting for it. I can't even begin to list all the people by name who have helped me over the years. Five years ago I almost died from pregnancy complications and people brought us meals for months. Some of them were complete strangers, but put themselves on the schedule a friend made up to coordinate meals. We experienced that same kindness this past year in abundance. A godmother made us three meals in less than six hours and dropped them all off to help get us through Holy Week. People have anonymously left cards at the store just to let me know that someone was praying for us not knowing that I really needed that encouragement on that particular day. I have encountered help over and over again from every business I have gone to over the past year. If they couldn't help they suggested someone else who possibly could and I would then go to that next person. This was both financially and for personal needs, like home remodeling repairs or lawn mower service.

I already believed in Steubenville and the tri-state area when I first pushed to open our business nine years ago. I believe even more in our area having gone through this tragedy. Yes our area is not perfect and yes, the legal system isn't perfect either, but it is the best system that we have in the world right now. I know that it seems like we have experienced even more setbacks with the announced closing of several different businesses in the past few months. But this I know: we may have to think outside of the box, but we can develop our own path. We can fight the good fight and provide a stronger tri-state area for our children. The good people in this area are some of the best and most professional in the world. All of us choose to stay here because we want a small town life for our children. We have some of the best schools with traditions of excellence right here in our valley. We are strong because we care. We rally when people are in need. My first thought when my tragedy occurred, especially as the true financial fiasco I was left with began to reveal itself was that my family was going to lose it all: our store and our house. But then I prayed and told God that I would fight as hard as I could for as long as I could, but I needed Him to provide my strength and for our every need. God is always good even when life is not. He is faithful even in my own unfaithfulness through human sin. He provided for my own family in ways I could not even imagine during this past year. It has been incredibly painful and also very humbling because I had to keep asking for help over and over again. But I know this: God will provide for our valley. We just have to be faithful and open to new business models as we enter the world of e-commerce and social media.

Thank you God for your faithfulness and for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Infant Jesus Child of Prague has provided for our family in miraculous ways. Thank you Saint Joseph for your ongoing protection of my family and interceding for our needs with your foster son Jesus. Thank you to Saint Cajetan for interceding and helping to provide for our Divine Mercy “bandaid loan” to help get us through to our final refinancing next year. Thank you to my family's patron saints and guardian angels. Your continued protection and guidance is very real and greatly appreciated. I cannot wait until I can thank you personally in heaven.

The words to Lauren Daigle's song “Trust In You” are my personal anthem and the best way that I can thank you God. They have guided me for this past year and are my ongoing prayer as I live my life aiming for eternal life in heaven. I hope these words help someone else in need as well:

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood
When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!
I will trust in You!

Thank you all! May God bless you and keep you now and always.


Stephanie LS Rivers
Owner of The UPS Store-Steubenville

Occasional rare blogger at thesweetnessofhome.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March Update #1 and Novena to St Joseph

Learn more about St. Joseph Altars here.

Unfailing Petition to St. Joseph:

Holy St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary,
be mindful of me, pray for me, watch over me.
Guardian of the paradise of the new Adam, 
provide for my temporal wants.
Faithful guardian of the most precious of all treasures,
I beseech thee to bring this matter to a happy end,
if it be for the glory of God,
and the good of my soul.

Note for all my Protestant friends: When Catholics pray to the Saints, they are asking them to intercede to God on their behalf.  We believe that the Saints in Heaven spend their eternity praying for us still here on earth and glorifying God with praise.

Thanks to your donations we have been able to keep the lights, heat and internet on at our store.  Thanks to two small loans from family members we were also able to pay for the past two months of our overdue "health care sharing co-op" (basically a version of health insurance for me and the children) and to keep the lights on at our house.  Thanks to that money we were able to pay the over $2,000 in loan payments that were due for the past two weeks.  We still have $3,000 in loan payments and past due bills still to pay for March alone and we are still waiting for the appraisal for the house to come through to find out if we can get a loan to help keep the store open.
Any money you can donate towards the Go FundMe will help to keep us open.
As for overcoming obstacles, yesterday the motor blew out on the heater/ac unit for our store.  Thankfully the repairmen were able to find a new motor within an hour's drive of our store and get things fixed, but that was another unexpected $500 (which is my deductible for every repair needed at the store.)

Some people have inquired about my refinancing options.  Unfortunately corporate does not have a national program set up for our stores to refinance.  I have to find a local source.  I am on bank #6 trying to make it happen, but every month that this situation stretches on the credit rating keeps getting lower and lower and more and more bills don't get paid on time or at all.  Yet, I can't file Chapter 11 bankruptcy because I am not a multi-million dollar company.  It costs almost $30,000 to file that type of bankruptcy and we only owe $75,000 and most lawyers don't do Chapter 11's for that "small" amount of money because Chapter 11's take so much time to litigate.....If I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy on the store then I lose my house (because the house anchors the store) and I can't sell the house because the house anchors the store.....so I am in this horrible catch-22.  It kills me to hear the local accountant tell people over and over again that "the store is solvent if we can get rid of the rapid finance repayments of $3500 per month that is dragging the store under (plus the other debt that Jason left me with)."  So far we have made it ten months.  We are so close and just need a little more time to save the store and keep the family home.  Thank you for your prayers and donations.  If you can help again, please donate and please help spread the word.  Most of all just keep us in your prayers!

St. Joseph Altar and Novena

A year ago March 10th my life began its radical change.  Without going into details of the case that need to remain private, a year ago March 10th I did what had been previously unimaginable to my life and asked my then husband to move out.  Per my devotion to St. Joseph I then added "protect my family and help me figure out my marriage" to our novena to St. Joseph.  March 18th is the feast day of St. Joseph, the protector of the Church.  As the weeks passed through March and April last year, St. Joseph and God worked behind the scenes leading to my now ex-husband and ex-employee's arrest before evidence could be destroyed.  I wrote the following testimony last July in my thanksgiving tribute to St. Joseph:

"As many of you know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph.  In fact I have blogged about our annual St. Joseph Altar dinner that we give every March in the past.  Jason was first arrested on May 1st, which is the feast day of "St. Joseph the Worker."  May is also the month of Our Lady St. Mary.  (Several different friends pointed this out to me a few days after he was arrested.)  Jason not only helped me honor St. Joseph with preparing the large St. Joseph meals, but he had of his own volition written a prayer and vow to St. Joseph to take care of me and his stepchildren at our wedding as St. Joseph took care of St. Mary and Jesus.  We now know he was stealing from our business, which is the exact opposite of being like "St. Joseph the Worker."  He also said honored Mary under the title "Our Lady of Victory."

This past winter Jason kept saying how he wanted to sell our rental duplex, that it was too stressful for him to maintain (even as he had moved his mistress into it and was paying her bills there.)  I had bought a statue of St. Joseph to put inside the duplex (NOT to be buried in the ground as some people do).  He never took the statue there, so in April I pushed it into his hands saying you can't ask St. Joseph to intercede for the selling of the duplex if you don't take St. Joseph to the house for it to sell.  So, he ACTUALLY took the statue of St. Joseph to the duplex, but didn't put it in the empty unit.  He actually took St. Joseph into where the mistress lived.  Eight days after the two of them were arrested, my friends helped me search the unit where she lived (that I am the landlord of) so that we could hand over her electronic devices to the sheriff and we found St. Joseph hidden in a kitchen cupboard.   St. Joseph is known as THE TERROR OF DEMONS.  No wonder they were thankfully finally caught by the Sheriff due to an anonymous tip.  YOU DON'T MESS WITH ST.  JOSEPH.  Jason actually took the statue of one my patron saints-THE SAINT THAT HE HAD VOWED TO BE LIKE-into the place where he was committing adultery.

A few days later, a large box arrived at the store as I left to go to his bond hearing (where the bond was lowered.)  The next day one of the employees reminded me that the large box sitting in the store was mine.  Inside it was a statue of the Holy Family THAT I HAD ORDERED BACK IN FEBRUARY FOR OUR ST. JOSEPH ALTAR DINNER.  The statue arrived three months later on the day of Jason's bond hearing as one more reminder from God that St. Joseph is interceding for me and the children in heaven.  It comforted me so much that I am not even annoyed about how long it took it to arrive.  Obviously it came right on time!!!"

I am starting my annual novena to St. Joseph.....praying for his continue guidance of how to provide for my family.  As I say over and over again, every day that my store is open is a miracle.  Over the course of the past year I have truly learned what it means to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread."  St. Joseph has protected my children and myself, most likely in ways we don't even know.  People who host St. Joseph Altars say that once you start, you never stop.  Even though we don't have a lot of money...even though I have to work on the 18th....and my kids' activities fill the weekend schedule and then we have the start of Holy Week, I have decided to host a frugal small St. Joseph Altar at work to honor St. Joseph.  There will be minestrone soup, bread, cake and pizzelles.  Please feel free to visit our store and small altar next Friday, March 18th from 11am-5:30pm.

I have added all the prayer intentions of anyone who has "prayed for us past, present and future" to our novena.  I have also added the intentions of anyone who has donated to help cover our bills (past, present, future as well.)

If you would like to pray the novena to St. Joseph with me then please pray these prayers.

Please see my past posts regarding two of our past three St. Joseph Altars:

St. Joseph: Protector of the Holy Family and my own!

Words cannot express how much your words of kindness, donations of money and constant prayers mean to the children and myself.  The grace that we have been given to survive this situation all comes from God blessings your prayers made on our behalf.

May you have a blessed end to your Lent and a sweet start to your spring,


Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Healing Time

Taking Time to Heal

If you are a new visitor here is the brief summary of my life:

Was married to a US Naval Officer who died in a training plane collision leaving me a single mom.
Remarried and had three more children.
Husband had an affair with an employee.
He and the employee hurt children and stole from our store.
They are in jail.
I am now a single mom again with five children.
I am trying frantically to keep our store open for business.
I got stuck with an unbelievable amount of debt and therefore may have to close the store.
We need $10, 000 immediately to keep the store open until the newly approved bank financing is processed and available for use eight weeks from now.
If we don't get money to pay the electric and cable bill the store will be closed by the end of this week.
(Ironically if we make it through the next eight weeks we will be at the year mark for when my ex was arrested.)

You can donate here if you want to help keep our store open.
Please consider being a part of our miracle!

Here is a new update:

I wrote one blog post, but when I went back to add pictures, all that writing has disappeared.  Not sure why it doesn't seem to be saved on the computer.

Last month, thanks to your prayers and the hard work on the part of both the prosecutors and the defense lawyer, and only two business days before his trial was to begin, a plea deal was made.  We were able to avoid a trial which has been my desperate plea since Jason was first arrested.  While some may disagree with how the system works I am relieved.  The plea deal was "life in prison without the possibility of parole for nineteen years."  None of the children had to testify.  Twelve jurors and the public was spared from being exposed to whatever evil is contained in the mountains of evidence the prosecution had from all the computers that we willingly turned over.  Let's be honest: only my pinkie nail wanted a trial so I could try to figure out how all this happened-what signs did I miss?  Right now the prosecutors and detectives know more about my life and ex-husband than I do.  But 99.9% of me is relieved-my kids are protected.  We can move on and begin healing now.  We have a timeframe.  Because honestly, a trial would just have created more questions for me since it is truly incomprehensible for a normal person to emotionally understand what actually happened.  Even if both Jason and the mistress truthfully explained what happened, I will always have, "Why? and What the....?"  So, now we try to move on and let the healing begin.

I was hoping to say that life is better now, but it is not.  That is why I have avoided this blog update as long as I have.  My friends who set up the Go FundMe have been urging me to get this written for weeks, but I am so tired of asking for help-of writing how much my life sucks that I just keep postponing it.  Plus I have been averaging 70 hour work weeks while our store gets new staff trained.

Back during the summer when we started the Go FundMe asking for $25,000 in money it was to help with the heat remodel, make other improvements on the house and get a new safer vehicle which are all requirements of social services for being able to keep my kids.  We had only been able to collect $11, 000 and I did not have signed divorce papers by the beginning of September with the full knowledge that winter was coming and we had no heat.  So, I leveraged the only asset I had left, which was the store and took out two horrible rapid repayment loans, because I had been reassured that as soon as the divorce was complete we would be able to refinance.  But now, since more and more debt keeps being reported by different vendors, the IRS, etc, normal refinancing is not working.  I just keep knocking on every door, asking for more time every single week.  I have taken only one paycheck since July because why pay payroll taxes on checks I cannot cash?  We have dried up all assets, listed new ones for sale, (anyone want a fixer up rental duplex?), we are reaching the end of the game plan.  It seems crazy to me that the #12 store in our region, that still had lines of customers going out the door this week even though it was February, could be shut down over not being able to get financing for $50, 000 because when we are talking about business $50, 000 is not that much money in today's day and age.  To my credit, and to the credit of loyal family, friends and customers, we have not defaulted on any loans.  I keep plugging away-but I HAVE to pay off the rapid refinance loans or we will LOSE the store.  We need $50, 000 asap (that is the loan amounts plus the interest) so that I can actually pay myself a wage and other store bills we are falling behind on each month instead of paying those loan companies $3500/month.  I have a business plan that shows how much I can afford to pay if anyone is willing to come in as a partner for the business or give me a decent loan with a regular interest rate.  If any of you can donate to help me pay both the store bills and my personal bills that I can't pay since I am not paying myself, please donate here.  Any money paid to the Go FundMe will go towards keeping the lights (and other basic bills like rent) on at both the store and home first, then any extra money above the next $10,000 will go towards store debt.  (Those rapid loans are why we have increased the amount needed on the Go FundMe.)  If you can't donate, then please just pray-I know that God has some mysterious plan for me and the kids.  Just pray that I have peace as I make decisions each week when it comes to the store.  I am open to all possibilities: hiring a manager and working another job to help pay off debt, selling the store, filing bankruptcy and closing the store, or doing what I have been doing: going to work each day to pay the bills and keeping the store going.  I could have walked away ten months ago....but I don't take the easy paths in life.  I was born a fighter and I believe that my store is worth fighting for.  Staying in the Steubenville area is worth fighting for which is why I this week I found a bank that can help this dream come true.  We just need help from our customers to help keep the lights on and internet running for the next two months until all the financing can be processed.

Two things I would like to address.  There seems to be some crazy rumors going around.

The first rumor is supposedly that "my mother-in-law posted Jason's bail last May."  Shame, shame on whichever people are spreading this vile rumor!!!!  My mother-in-law absolutely DID NOT post Jason's bail.  She informed his lawyer that Jason was exactly where he need to be.  His bail was posted by a military buddy who kept his wartime promise that he would put up bail if Jason was ever arrested.  He feels betrayed by the new charges that Jason's plea deal was for.  Unfortunately I have had no contact with this friend since July.  It hurts to have lost a friend that I thought I would always be able to count on if times were tough for me and the kids.  But I also know that this honorable person kept his promise and has been betrayed by a close friend he believed in.  He too needs to heal and protect himself.

The second rumor seems to be that my "children have had contact with their father."  THEY HAVE HAD NO CONTACT WITH THEIR DAD SINCE MAY 1ST!!!!  When the judge was talking about Jason breaking "no contact" orders at the plea deal last month, they were referring to him having contact with the mistress while they were both in jail.  In fact I turned over evidence of that contact after he was rearrested.  I found letters hidden in a heating vent in our duplex which I turned in as soon as I found them.  How do you know they children haven't had contact with him?  BECAUSE MY SOCIAL SERVICES CASE IS STILL NOT CLOSED.  If any contact had been made, my kids would be in the foster care system instead of safe at home with me.  My little ones do not understand what has happened.  They don't understand why they can't send their dad pictures or talk to him on the phone.  They keep asking why the judge thinks that their dad could hurt them if he is in jail.  Someday they will grow up and realize that they could be hurt by manipulation and that the judge's job is to protect them with these rules, but right now all they know is that they love their dad even though he did bad things and they can't tell him they miss him and love him.  They can't hear his voice to know he is okay.  Ask ANY foster care parent you know and they will tell you these are all normal reactions for any kid in foster care.  Kids who have been terribly hurt by their parents physically, emotionally and sexually can still love the person who hurt them.  That love MUST be honored so I do my best to honor their hurting hearts.  I tell them over and over that it will get easier and that they are loved and missed.  BUT I HAVE OBEYED EVERY RULE.  NO LETTERS, PHONE CALLS OR CONTACT HAS BEEN MADE.  In fact I am the one who has said absolutely no contact with any of the five children, not just the victims.  When each child turns 18 years old then they can personally decide if they want contact with their dad or not.

So, please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop spreading rumors.  It is a sin.  Let us all move on and heal.

Sorry that I don't have time to post pictures.

Again, thank you for all the prayers!!!

May the quiet healing of winter lead you all to the sweetness of spring,